Most people who have volunteered abroad report back that the experience was exceptionally fulfilling. However, for many people, the chasm between thinking about volunteering and actually becoming a volunteer can be immobilizing. Considering a few simple things can help point you in the direction of the right volunteering opportunity for you.
Go for the Goal
There are countless different ways to volunteer. Before you can pick one, you must identify your own goals. Are you hoping to immerse yourself in a different culture or sharpen up your language skills? Be as specific as possible: many people want to "make a difference" and "save the world," but these things are accomplished through specific acts, such as teaching English as a second language, building facilities - such as schools, hospitals and homes, assisting with farming and agriculture, giving shots and vaccines, rescuing local wildlife, working with children, and educating communities about critical public health and other issues. The more specific your goal, the more likely you are to realize it.
The Nitty Gritty
It's easy to daydream about heading off on a world-changing mission across the globe; in reality, real world issues intervene -- such as time and money. First determine how much time you plan on volunteering, and then take a serious look at your financial situation to determine what you can spare. If you're planning to tie in volunteering with travel, also consider how to create a budget planner for your dream vacation . Many programs require a fee, while a limited few -- mostly religious and government programs -- cover all costs. If you don't yet have the funds you need, make sure to allow yourself ample time before making a commitment.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Set yourself up for volunteering success by considering your own wants and needs. Is your goal to live among the locals and experience life just as they do, or would you rather be part of an external group? Also determine the region of the world where you'd like to travel: volunteering opportunities exist in all corners of the globe, and honing in on a location makes it easier to find the right volunteering situation. This is also a good time to consider your special skills and in what way they might be most effectively applied during a volunteer abroad program.
Look Before You Leap
Don't jump into the first volunteer opportunity you come across. Instead, take the time to research your options, consider different programs, and visit a variety of websites. But don't just take the website's word for it: conduct your own investigation by contacting former volunteers to find out about their experiences. And don't be afraid to ask questions: organizations vary widely in terms of everything from emergency procedures to the amount and type of in-country staff and support. Volunteering just may be one of the most rewarding things you'll do in your lifetime, but taking the steps to find the perfect program fit is critical. These initial steps can set you on the path to the adventure of a lifetime.
Joanna Hughes writes on all subjects, including lifestyle, travel and fashion as well as the latest news from the tech world.